The Ozzfest Meets Knotfest 2017 Interviews – Mike Hill of Tombs
In the midst of a tour with 1349 and Goatwhore, the almighty Tombs made their way to one of the Ozzfest Meets Knotfest stages at Glen Helen in the wilds of San Bernardino, CA. What would ensue would be nothing short of sonic terror in the highest order – gripping, imagination, and tremendous epic in scope. Tombs recently issued their latest manifesto The Grand Annihilation on Metal Blade Records, and devastated the crowd with selections from the new entreaty as well as their other earlier declarations of auditory intrigue. Right after their Ozzfest Meets Knotfest performance, we caught up with front man Mike Hill backstage to find out more about themes to be found within The Grand Annihilation, favorite Ozzy/Black Sabbath song, their compelling David Bowie cover of Heroes, and other topics of interest. Read on…
How did your show go here at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest?
It was great. A little earlier in the day than normal, but I think it went well.
Have you gotten to meet Ozzy or any of the Osbournes?
Ah, no and I also don’t think I will. [laughs] I’d love to but he’s probably in a helicopter somewhere right now.
What is your favorite Ozzy or Black Sabbath song of all time?
Oh dude. It’s hard to pin down, I’m gonna say “The Wizard” is probably my favorite. I just like the harmonica in it, it’s killer. And the drums in that song are pretty amazing. Yeah, the overall vibe and tone of that song remind me of a Hammer horror film sort of – yeah.
How has this current tour with 1349 and Goatwhore been going and what have been some of the highlights?
It’s been great. Seeing both bands play every night is amazing. We toured with 1349 once before and that was great, so they’re friends. Goatwhore. I’ve known for a long time, this is the first time we’ve actually done dates together on a tour. Ben F is like, one of the best front men ever in my opinion. Watching those guys work every night, to me, is like – such a special thing. I’m a fan of both bands, so to be out on the road with them and watch them play every night, it’s been great.
Is there an overall story or concept behind the album title, The Grand Annihilation?
A lot of it has to do with the idea that there’s just simply too many people inhabiting this planet right now. We’d probably be a lot nicer to each other if there was less people or we had a smaller civilization. I’m not saying I have an idea on who we’d annihilate, but I would believe that if there was some natural occurrence, that happened and reduced our population, we’d get along a little easier. The title of the album is behind that idea.
Select two songs from The Grand Annihilation and what inspired the lyrics?
My favorite song on the record is “November Wolves.” I’m a big horror fan and I love werewolves and that song is like, using the werewolf sort of archetype to connect with the primal instinct that is inside of all humans. That sort of caveman primitive impulse, that bloodlust, that kind of thing. I feel like it’s suppressed in our society but also rests just below the surface and that occasionally there be those people who sort of let go of that civilization and that primal caveman side pops up and they become these anti-social sort of people. That song is about that. Also, embracing more of the primal side of life has it’s benefits too. The positive side is if you want to get into some cave man shit, it’s good for your brain to not live in your head all the time. To actually go out into the physical world and pick stuff up and move them around. Express power, I think is a good thing for people to do mentally. That’s the yin and yang of the darker side and the lighter side of being a primal beast.
Another track off the record I’d say is a big favorite of mine is, “The Underneath” which is a little bit different than the rest of the album. It kind of is inspired by what happened in Salem during the Witch Trials and how women were subjugated by the patriarchy, the male overlord. All they were doing was connecting with a sort of discipline that’s older than Christianity. AKA Witchcraft. Witchcraft not necessarily being a Satanic thing, but magic being the use of colors and symbols and herbs, things that grow in nature. Using that to help manifest your goals and change your life, that didn’t fit into the Christian ideology so they were murdered by Christians. So that song, but not specifically about that, was inspired by that sort of idea.
I want to go back to your “Heroes” cover, your Bowie cover. What made you decide to cover that particular song, besides that it’s incredible?
#1 it was incredible and David Bowie was incredible. But when I was a young kid I saw this movie called Christiane F. So, I saw this movie (I have a copy on VHS, because I don’t think a digital copy exists anywhere). I don’t know if it’s been released on Blu-Ray. I just remember being about the same age as the kids in those movies when I saw it and that version of “Heroes” that’s in that film was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. And combined with the imagery of the movie, it’s a very dark film about heroin addiction. But the character is redeemed at the end. It’s sort of the idea of going through hell and coming out the other side, learning all you can learn. And then hopefully going in a more positive direction with your life. So that movie and that song always connected with me on that level and I eventually found that soundtrack on vinyl. So I have that version of the song. For years and years, I would say some day and in some band, I want to cover this song. Tombs just felt like the perfect vehicle for it.
The band has a lot of different influences. I think fans that get deeply into the catalog will see a little bit of a Bowie influence, so it made sense to me. I hope that I came close to the greatness of that song but I can only imagine that I fell way short because Bowie is one of the greatest contributors to popular music in my opinion.
Do you feel any affinity to bands like Joy Division and their front man Ian Curtis?
100%. Aside from the heavy metal I grew up listening to, stuff like Joy Division’s Bauhaus, Fields of Nephilim, to a certain extent Sisters of Mercy, that kind of stuff. Early The Cult stuff was a big influence on me mainly – when I was a kid, I was 11, 12 years old listening to heavy metal. Got into The Ramones and hardcore and punk and then when I discovered women, girls actually at that point, that’s when I started that gut wrenching heartbreak, that iron vice around your heart is when I started turning more towards the goth stuff. Like Joy Division and post-punk, that kind of stuff. It was more expressive on an emotional level. It wasn’t just about raw power, destruction and dark stuff like that. It had another element to it which I really appreciated. So yeah, that I felt like is representative in what we do as a band as well. That stuff has always been in the background for me.
I want to talk about your solo project, Vasilek. Any new music on the horizon for that?
I started working on some stuff right before this tour. That’s something that I’m always kind of working on parallel with writing new Tombs material. It took me like, the culmination of four years of working on things here and there and like, oh wow, I have enough material to put out some sort of record. Then my friends over at Translation Lost were like, the obvious people to work with because they have such an open mind about music. That’s how that came about. It’s something I want to do more ambitiously in the coming year, I like to actually put together some kind of live thing where I can perform live with it. That might include multimedia stuff or visuals. I haven’t really thought it out but I’m gonna predict that in 2018 there will be at least one or two live Vasilek shows. We’ll see if that happens or not, [laughs].
Would Vasilek and Tombs ever want to do a tour together?
That could be a possibility. I put a lot into the Tombs set on a physical level but I think Vasilek is maybe a little less physically demanding. I might be able to just do that and not necessarily break a sweat. I could see doing that, yeah. Maybe do a Vasilek set, have another band go on and then Tombs. That’d be kinda cool.
What’s up in the New Year for Tombs?
We’re going over to Europe at some point next year and I’m sure – we’ve already gotten possible US tour offers for next year and I can’t talk about it yet, because it’s not confirmed. But then new music. We’re always working on new material. We will have written new songs in 2018, but I don’t believe they will be released in 2018. That’s how the cycle of recording and having a label put out the record sometimes is a long and arduous process. But if you come and see us next year, you will 100% be experiencing new songs.
(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
Tombs on Facebook